Chicago City Council passes resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire

Thursday, February 1, 2024
City council passes resolution calling for Gaza cease-fire
The Chicago City Council has passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A large crowd gathered in Daley Plaza after the Chicago City Council passed a controversial resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza on Wednesday.

Some also marched in the streets.

The council meeting became tense at times, with people in the audience shouting out and some being escorted from council chambers.

The council vote became dramatic, with Mayor Brandon Johnson casting the tie-breaking vote. Resolutions are typically passed quickly and without controversy, but the council spent months on this topic.

Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, who spearheaded the cease-fire resolution, hugged a colleague and wiped away a tear after the final vote.

"I mean, I am very overwhelmed emotionally. I'm very grateful for all the colleagues that supported the resolution," she said.

It ended months of debate over the war in Gaza that caused great division in the city council.

That was on full display as the council debated the non-binding resolution for the third time. The only Jewish alderperson made a passionate plea against it.

"How do you support a revolution that allows a terrorist regime to stay in power, so that it can continue to attack the world's only Jewish state?" said 50th Ward Alderwoman Debra Silverstein.

RELATED: CPS high school students walk out of class to demand Gaza cease-fire

Mayor Brandon Johnson cleared the chambers and recessed for an hour after repeated disruptions by pro-Palestinian supporters in the gallery. When debate resumed, it was civil, but urgent.

"I believe in my heart of hearts, we have to take a stand and show that we are acknowledging what is going on has to stop," said 45th Ward Alderman Jim Gardiner.

"I will be to be voting no on this language, as it presents a false choice and fails to promote unity for Chicagoans," said 43rd Ward Alderman Timmy Knudsen.

"We all want peace, as we said, but how can we want peace and be against cease-fire?" said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez.

And then there were concerns about how this vote might look with the Democratic National Convention seven months away.

RELATED: Chicago unions call for Israel-Hamas cease-fire

"It weakens the United States' influence on the international stage, and directly contradicts the White House's position on foreign policy," said 39th Ward Alderwoman Samantha Nugent.

There were four city council members not present for the vote, including three who at the meeting: Walter Burnett, Stephanie Coleman and Pat Dowell. ABC7 reached out to all three, but no one wanted to comment.

The Israeli General Consul said this resolution will not impact the situation in the Middle East, but added that he is disappointed by the mayor's position on the matter.

"My concern is that this resolution will just grow more divide among communities in the city of Chicago and provoke more antisemitism in the city," said Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Yinam Cohen.

Meanwhile, following the meeting, council members Rodriguez-Sanchez and Sigcho-Lopez joined supporters of the resolution for a rally at Daley Plaza.

It was organized by the Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine. Supporters say Chicago is the largest city in the U.S. to pass a cease-fire resolution.

"Hopefully this is just a stepping stone for the next major city, and for the next, and for the next," rally attendee Mohammed Ayyash said.

Underscoring the divisiveness of the day, a social media post threatening violence against council members who voted "no" prompted Alderperson Scott Waguespack to file a police report. He said for weeks his office has been inundated with hateful calls and emails.

Full statement from Israeli Consulate:

"Today, a divided Chicago City Council adopted a highly controversial resolution calling on Israel to engage in an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
This resolution undermines the position of the Biden Administration, the International Court of Justice, and the European Union and the overwhelming majority of Americans who understand that the release of all the hostages held in Gaza and dismantling Hamas' terrorist infrastructure are preconditions to any ceasefire.

While this resolution will have no impact in the Middle East, it will create more division among communities in Chicago and inspire more antisemitism, as we saw on the floor and in the galleries of City Hall today.

We commend the Alders who sought to find a consensus and voted against this polarizing resolution."

Full statement from Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago:

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) joins with the Chicago community in celebrating the passage of the Ceasefire Resolution by the Chicago City Council.

The passage of the Ceasefire Resolution by Chicago, the third largest metropolitan area in the United States, sends a resounding message to political leaders across this nation that respect for innocent human life is a guiding moral principle for civilized societies. We gratefully acknowledge the Mayor and the 23 aldermen and alderwomen who voted to pass the cease fire resolution. The firmness of your conviction and commitment to the preservation of human life is to be applauded. It is a reminder that even in the face of obstinate resistance, the pursuit of justice must not be forsaken. Truth can and will prevail.

We thank our member organizations whose members made calls and posted letters demanding that Chicago City Council members pass this resolution. We thank the Imams of our mosques who made this resolution the subject matter of their Friday Khutbahs (sermon)messages, reminding congregants of the importance to remain firm in the pursuit of social justice. We also want to thank the numerous unions and civic groups that publicly pronounced their unwavering support for the passage of the ceasefire resolution.

Finally we thank you, known and unknown, who were on the front lines with us pushing for the passage of this resolution.

As a strong voice in the public space of America, Chicago has declared its support to end the killing of innocent human lives.

Full joint statement from Jewish United Fund and Anti-Defamation League Midwest:

"Mayor Johnson and City Council members could have drafted a resolution that supports a ceasefire, advocates for increased humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, demands the unconditional release of hostages, and calls for the dismantling of the terrorist organization Hamas. Instead, they advocated for a one-sided resolution that divides our city, emboldens Hamas, and dangerously undermines U.S. global influence.

"The debate and rhetoric around this resolution has fanned the flames of antisemitism as antisemitic incidents in the city and U.S. reach unprecedented levels.

"Since this resolution was introduced, we have tracked an increase in antisemitic incidents across the city. Jewish-owned businesses, Jewish CPS students, and Jewish elected officials have been harassed and targets of vandalism and hateful propaganda. Protesters have disrupted City Council meetings, put travelers at risk by shutting down highways, harassed the children of Holocaust survivors, and just yesterday covered City Hall in disgraceful and offensive graffiti. Protest after protest in Chicago has celebrated violence against Jews and crossed the line from legitimate criticism of a government to unfiltered hatred of Jews.

"We deeply appreciate Alders, led by Ald. Debra Silverstein, who did all they could to try and negotiate in good faith to achieve a more reasonable and commonsense resolution. Chicago's Jewish community will long be grateful to those who stood with us and on the true side of peace."